Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Golden State: Seeing the burger light

When I ate my first cheeseburger last February, I thought it would be sort of a one time thing. Even though I grew up eating In-N-Out burgers after cross-country practice, prior to the grand event, I had convinced myself that I just wasn’t a burger kind of girl – that I didn’t have that innate lust for bloody meat coated with drippy cheese.

“I like vegetables,” I told myself rather snottily and was actually slightly dreading the experience of ingesting a half pound of ground up cow flesh during the week leading up to my dinner date at Rustic Canyon.

I wasn’t expecting to fall head over flats (I’m a tall girl – can’t wear the heels) with that first blissful cheeseburger. And I certainly wasn’t expecting that I would continue craving them on a regular basis.

Despite my love for roughage and compulsive ingestion of all things containing fiber, in my mind, there are few things more satisfying than a cheeseburger with all the fixings. I love the way it feels in my hands – substantial, solid – something that I can really sink my teeth into. I love that it comes fully intact with everything needed for a “complete” meal – meat, bread, a marginal amount of fresh vegetables courtesy of a few leaves of lettuce, a sticky mass of caramelized onions, or a smattering of sweet bread and butter pickles (my favorite). And I love that when I finish a burger (and I always finish them), I feel gorgeously full.

It’s been sort of a challenge for me to feel completely full lately. Because I gave up desserts for Lent, even after I plow through a trough of roasted cauliflower, chickpeas and quinoa, I still feel like I’m not ready to be done eating yet. I want something more. I want something sweet and fatty and delicious. And the cup of rooibos peach tea is just not cutting it.

This past Friday was particularly rough. I was feeling tired from the time change and cranky from my inability to touch any of the chocolate that is hibernating in my snack drawer at work. I knew that I needed something really hearty for dinner that night – something containing meat. I was meeting a friend at the Farmer’s Market at Third and Fairfax that evening, but as I was driving over, all I could think about was how much I wanted – nay needed – a burger.

By the time I had arrived, I was convinced that nothing else would do. I anxiously waited for my friend, praying that she would be game to walk the three blocks down Fairfax Avenue to The Golden State, a bare-bones, counter service eatery that’s well-known for their classic burgers, artisanal beers and commitment to showcasing the best that California has to offer in terms of food and drink.

“They have fish sticks on Friday and Saturday nights,” I told my friend, flubbing my words in my rush to convey how necessary it was that we go there.

“Fish sticks?” She asked, looking at me like I was crazy.

“Fish and chips!” I exploded, the words finally coming to me. “It’s a special! And they serve Scoops ice cream!” I continued, hoping to lure her in with the promise of some brown bread ice cream.

She smiled at my excitement. “As long as they serve alcohol, I’m game.”

I was practically giddy on the walk over – already fantasizing about that glorious first bite – the juices that would dribble down my chin, the housemade aioli that would streak across my bottom lip until I licked it off.

The restaurant was already busy when we arrived a little after 6 pm – most of the tables lining both sides of the one-room space were occupied with couples grabbing a quick post-work bite. Without hesitation (for once, I was not terrified by a restaurant menu), I decisively placed my order for the burger made with Harris Ranch beef that comes topped with Fiscalini Farms cheddar, glazed Applewood smoked bacon, arugula, housemade aioli and ketchup ($10). I selected the jalapeño cabbage slaw as my side (sweet potatoes fries, French fries, potato salad, and Persian cucumber salad are also available) and, in a wildly uncharacteristic move, tacked on the Craftsman 1903 lager on tap to drink.

The light, refreshing beer was the perfect partner for my burger and slaw. While I usually pinch up my nose when offered a beer, claiming that it’s “too heavy,” the malty brew tasted just right that night.

The burger, as expected, tasted just right, as well.

Though the texture of The Golden State’s patty is a little more loosely packed than I usually prefer, all the elements are astutely composed. The cheese is lacquered onto the burger with the perfect melt, the ketchup and aioli add an assertive tang, the glossy brioche bun appears as if it were specifically made to house the medium-rare patty, and the sweet slabs of smoked bacon enhance rather than detract from the flavor of the beef.

I inhaled everything. The beer, the burger and the heap of sesame-oil scented jalapeño cabbage slaw that is milder than the title would suggest.

As I stared down at my empty plate and empty glass, it struck me that just a little over a year ago I would have laughed if someone had told me that I would one day crave a tall glass of beer and a bacon-topped, drippy cheeseburger.

“I’m just not a burger and beer kind of girl,” I would have said with a casual shrug.

I couldn’t be happier that I finally, blissfully, saw the light.

And at The Golden State, that light looks pretty darn good.

The Golden State
420 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 782-8331


stuffycheaks said...

you're a changed woman! That burger isn't the typical You, but st least you supplemented with a side of greens

Bakelab said...

Ever since Golden State opened, we simply don't go anywhere else for burgers. And the fish & chips are to die for, the fish amazingly juicy and the batter crisp and deeply wrinkled, and assertively seasoned. We have called ahead to tell them we're on our way, save us a fish & chips!

Oh my god. What did I just do to myself? Sooo hungry...

Esi said...

Ha, what stuffycheaks said re: the salad. So excited to go!

weezermonkey said...

I still haven't been!!!!!

Diana said...

Stephanie - You know I can't go a meal without some vegetation! I heart greens like you heart... umm... marrow?

Kristin - And now I need to go back for fish and chips. After I go back tonight for (hopefully) the lamb burger!

Esi - Can't wait!!!

Weez - You give Jabba a bad name. ;)

Gastronomer said...

I'm gonna back you up on the burger front, but I haven't quite embraced beers yet. I bet you're stoked for Short Order to finally open in the Farmer's Market!

Anna A. said...

nice work here talf, how does it compare to the other burgers you´ve had? ive always wanted to try golden state... and it looks like there is quite a dosage of ruffage in that burger.

Alexandra said...

There is something incredibly comforting about a good burger. I agree, that when a burger craving hits, you must have one! These photos are giving me hunger pangs! Yum.

Alexandra said...

There is something incredibly comforting about a good burger. I wholeheartedly agree, that when a burger craving hits, you must have one! These photos are giving me hunger pangs! Yum.

Alexandra said...

There is something incredibly comforting about a good burger. I wholeheartedly agree, that when a burger craving hits, you must have one! These photos are giving me hunger pangs! Yum.